The Vikings had exploratory conversations with Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh on Saturday to gauge interest on both sides in the team's head coaching position, a source with knowledge of the team's plans said.
Harbaugh was the coach for the San Francisco 49ers in 2013, when the Vikings' new general manager, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, began working in the team's research department.
In four seasons with the 49ers, from 2011 to 2014, Harbaugh went 49-22-1, reaching three NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl. He lost to his brother John's Baltimore Ravens 34-31 in Super Bowl XLVII in the 2012 season.
Harbaugh and the 49ers parted ways at the end of the 2014 season, and a few days later he was hired by Michigan, his alma mater. He is 61–24 with the Wolverines, leading them to the College Football Playoff this past season.
Harbaugh, 58, regularly attracts attention from NFL teams seeking a head coach. He signed a four-year contract extension with Michigan in January 2021 that runs through the 2025 season. The incentive-laden extension included a reduction in his base compensation to around $4 million, half of what it was in 2020, when he was one of the highest-paid college coaches in the country. If Harbaugh were to leave, he would have to pay a $1.5 million buyout.
Also Saturday, the Vikings announced they had interviewed Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham for the head coach opening.
Graham was the ninth coach to have an official first interview with the Vikings but the first since Adofo-Mensah was hired on Wednesday.
Graham, who also holds the title of assistant head coach with the Giants, joined Joe Judge's staff in 2020. Judge was fired Jan. 11 and replaced Friday by Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, leaving Graham's future uncertain. Daboll and Graham overlapped on Bill Belichick's Patriots staff from 2013 to 2015.
Graham, 43, spent seven years with the Patriots, beginning in 2009, and had his first stint with the Giants as defensive line coach under Ben McAdoo from 2016-17. Graham was the linebackers coach for the Packers in 2018 and the Dolphins' defensive coordinator under Brian Flores in 2019 before rejoining the Giants staff.
Though the Giants have struggled the past two seasons, Graham is a widely respected coach, having earned nicknames like "Black Picasso" and "The Computer," according to a 2021 profile in Sports Illustrated. Graham, who was a defensive lineman at Yale, is believed to have a strong relationship with Adofo-Mensah.
Several of the Vikings' initial targets in their coaching search have moved on to other jobs. The Broncos hired former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett — the first candidate to interview with the Vikings — as their head coach on Thursday. Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn signed a new deal to stay in Dallas, and Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore reportedly has a second interview with the Dolphins in their search for Flores' replacement.
Remaining from the Vikings' initial interview list are Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris and offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell, Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
Because Morris, O'Connell and Ryans are coaching in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, they are not available for further interviews until after that game.